What to Do When Things Seem Hopeless

I can’t think of a more desperate situation than having a child who is near death. 

I’ve stood in enough hospital waiting rooms with frightened parents to know it is a terrifying experience, no matter what the age of the child. In our own family, I have two miracle nephews, both of whom were frighteningly close to death, but whose lives God chose to spare. I pray every day that these young men will never forget God’s mercy to them and never take their lives for granted. 

I thought of my nephews today when I read of another frantic parent on the pages of Scripture—Jairus. His 12-year-old daughter was sick and near death. This Judean family lacked the benefit of modern medicine, state-of-the-art equipment, and well-trained specialists. 

All they had was prayer. 

And Jesus. 

Lord willing, I hope you never have a child who is critically ill, but we all face faith challenges like the one Jairus and his wife encountered. We’d be wise to learn from his example. Here are five principles we can apply from Luke 8 when we encounter a faith challenge: 

1. Run to Jesus and ask for help. 

Jairus flung himself at Jesus’ feet and begged him to heal his daughter, and we must to the same. While we should avail ourselves of every resource available and every human being who can assist us, it’s crucial that we begin and end with God. We must recognize it is God who holds our lives, our futures, our fortunes, and our families in his hands. He is the gatekeeper who can provide and direct all other resources our way. 

2. When things look darkest, don’t give up

Friends met Jairus on the way and told him not to bother the teacher anymore, that his daughter was dead. Short of death, we mustn’t believe the lies that say our situation is hopeless. The pages of Scripture and the history of our world hold innumerable examples of God’s miraculous power. He can cause a barren womb to bear a child, a jobless man to provide for his family, a lonely orphan to find a home, and a comatose patient to speak again. Nothing is impossible for God. NOTHING. 

3. Don’t be afraid. 

When the news arrived that Jairus’ daughter had died, Jesus issued a challenge to him: “Do not be afraid. Only believe . . .” We too must rest in the perfect love of Jesus, trust his plan and purpose for our lives, and allow his peace to replace our fear. We must remember that “whatsoever is not of faith is sin,” (Rom. 14:23) and not surrender to the sin of unbelief. It hinders the effectiveness of our prayers and steals valuable energy from our efforts. We cannot allow it to hamstring us.

4. Watch God work. 

When he arrived at the home, Jesus commanded everyone with no faith to leave the room. Then he demonstrated his sovereign power over man’s greatest enemy, death, by raising Jairus’ daughter to life again. While we may not be praying for someone who is critically ill, the same power that raised the dead is available to us through Jesus Christ. 

And if your faith is weak? Remember that faith is like a muscle—the more we use it, the stronger it grows. If you have only tiny faith, pray mustard seed prayers and watch God answer. Every prayer victory will make it easier to believe God for something greater the next time. 

Don’t be afraid to ask God to give you more faith. The father of the demon-possessed boy did: "I do believe;” he confessed to Jesus, “help me overcome my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24). 

I know there are some reading this post who have prayed, hoped, and believed God would spare your loved ones, yet they still died. I’ve been on that side of the hospital bed too, and I know your sorrow. I don’t always understand God’s ways, but I know we can trust him, even when our hearts are breaking. 

My miracle nephew Rusty
Others may be struggling with infertility or fighting to stretch an unemployment check. Your heart may be aching for a prodigal or experiencing a broken marriage. Unless God shows us that his will is different than what we’ve been praying, no matter how dark the situation seems, we must continue to pray for God’s miraculous deliverance. 

Jesus’ words to Jairus are his words to us as well: 

“Do not be afraid. Only believe . . .”

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  1. Aw hen our son was small, we were told one Sunday morning, to take him to the hospital. I asked if we could run by the house and the doctor looked at me and said go straight to the hospital, I have a doctor waiting for you.
    We got ther and were met by an oncologist. Me, seminary trained to be a pastor, could just stare at my wife in shock. Sometimes all we can do is pray, and sometimes we have to depend on others.
    None of this surprises our wonderful Lord, who says He is praying for us. Wow.

    1. Yours is a powerful testimony, Tim, from someone who has tested God and found him more than able to care for you. Thanks for sharing today.